Rules of Engagement

“Red Rover Red Rover send Karla on over!” It was a bit scary. First, there wasn’t THAT much room between the two walls of the gym. How fast should I really go to break the barrier of my friends’ arms. Won’t that hurt them? Won’t I get hurt?

Rules were part of the game. Every game in fact. But rules were nothing new to me as my parents lined out a few when I was very young. Following the rules was important to me. It seemed most of us gave it our best efforts. But behind the scenes…

No one really liked him. I felt sorry for him. No one really paid any attention to her. My heart broke for her. Why wouldn’t anyone pick her for the team? Why are others being mean to him? I never understood it. Why are they laughing at her? Isn’t that breaking the rules?

Sundays would come around~my favorite day. We’d soon be gathered around the family table. Under the steeple I’d curiously observe other adults and kids. Bibles open, pens out, and if lucky, candy for us young ones. And the singing was my favorite. The rules were shared through stories; ancient ones and some newer. True events with major consequences for not following the rules. On one hand the fear made me sit up straight. But on the other hand, sermons about love filled me with warmth and acceptance. I learned of this man who always played fair and loved every team member. The rules seemed black and white and rules of engagement seemed… fair.

Last week I shared with my parents as we discussed current events, “Why did I, and so many teachers and parents to this day, spin our wheels trying to teach young kids kindness and civility when our own leaders do not display them?”

Rules had to be displayed when I began teaching at a young age. By the time I left education we had school-wide norms. These expectations were communicated daily in school-wide settings and individual classrooms. “Kids, I’d like for you all to be civil and respectful to one another!” “Even if we disagree let’s show courtesy and respect!” One day several young students and I were sitting in a circle in the counselor’s office. The discussion was about bullying. One girl was obviously the victim. The others, collectively, immediately developed a pack-like attitude. To try and get them to speak individually was like pulling a tooth. The pack remained intact. My own family had their experience at pack attacks throughout the years. Have you ever experienced it?

When I left Facebook a couple of years ago it was because the rules of engagement no longer seemed to exist. After learning some lessons (and still learning) I couldn’t understand why some, hidden behind a screen, could fire shots without any regard to the rules of engagement. Aside from what one might consider just general knowledge about healthy and positive human behavior these attacks seemed planned. And the rules of engagement justified me acting in self-defense right? But to whom does this really benefit?

I was a rule-breaker. There were periods of my life I only thought of myself; I had felt bullied and looked for a way out~despite the rules. I’ve lived with the consequences of breaking the rules and its impact on others. I’ve experienced heartache, hurt, pain, and joy all combined in the lessons.

Several mornings ago, while catching up with the “normally-not-so-uplifting” news, I was refreshed by the interview of two men running for governor of Utah. Their ad was a light in the darkness for me. Republican Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox and law professor Chris Peterson, a Democrat, appeared together to call for civility among voters. Cox and Peterson are running against each other to become the governor of Utah. They joked with one another and encouraged all residents to respect one another; no matter their vote. My smile got wider. This was not a hallucination of hope. It was real.

“Our common values transcend our political differences and the strength of our nation rests on our ability to see that,” Peterson said. “I’m not sure this has ever been done before…but as our national political dialogue continues to decline, my opponent and I decided to try something different,” Cox tweeted Tuesday.  “Let’s make Utah an example to the nation.” (CBS News)

I’m not distracted by false hope anymore. I’m not falling for the fake offering of freedom with instant love. The only attention I need is that which grows my capacity to level the playing field for everyone in which I engage.

I did run across the gym eventually. Although I didn’t break the bonded arms of my friends, the giggly entanglement ensured me I was safe on their team.

I’ll stay my course with my ultimate authority~to guide me and to help me set the parameters that will propel me to encourage and help others in the game. You see, it’s not the rules I focus on anymore~it’s Christ. And Christ alone.

   “There is no exception to this rule: "All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant." They say there is no rule without an exception, but there is an exception to that rule.”
― Charles Spurgeon

Have faith💚

In the Middle

I’m not the first born, nor the last. I’m in the middle (within five minutes of my birth, I beckoned my twin to follow 😉). Today is Wednesday, the middle of the week. For sake of argument, let’s pretend that Missouri is right in the middle of the States (supposedly we are “Midwestern”).

To add to my medium (writing that is….), I’m middle-aged. Being in the middle has had its shares of ups and downs. Honestly, I don’t mind being in the middle…..at all.

There were times I put myself in the middle of situations I shouldn’t~and times I was put there without extra work on my part. Haven’t we all been placed “in the middle” at times? The middle of…

  • arguments
  • politics
  • work situations
  • birth order
  • relationships

Recently, I submitted an article to a magazine located in the West (I will NOT name it). A few weeks transpired before a message was sent. To paraphrase, “Your writing is not OUR style. BUT I think you will find the right platform.” To paraphrase the paraphrase, “You’re not liberal enough.”

Another recent submission was for an essay contest (publishing company located in the EAST). The response was eloquent, detailed, and encouraging. Yes, a rejection~but, oh so sweet with feedback. To quote specifically, “You have a story to tell. Keep writing and keep submitting.” But as I read what they DO publish, I can tell my stories don’t have a political “flavor”.

A friend told me, “your writing is typical to what I’ve read in Reader’s Digest.” She nailed it in many ways. In my twenties I wrote an essay about my Grandfather Wilson (to note, Grandpa “scared the hell out of me”~thankfully, Grandma was there to ease the sting and soften the life-changing commitment I made to follow Christ) Reader’s Digest never published the essay. Nor did I “make it” as a children’s book author as I had dreamed. Rejection started early. To say it doesn’t sting would be false. There was a time in my life that the feeling of rejection took its toll. It’s wasn’t “good” and it wasn’t “bad”…..well, I was in the middle. I guess it was just “ok”.

It’s been preached that you can’t be in the middle. Take a stand! Choose a side! “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”,….yada, yada, yada. Just because I choose to stay in the middle doesn’t mean I don’t take a stand on truth.

I’m just a small-town girl that has traveled to the far West. And to the East. And to some other countries. I choose to sometimes stand in the middle of the road. I might get ran over by the left~or ran over by the right. It would encourage me immensely to find others that choose to stand in a position where they can see each direction. Sadly, some don’t even really choose (using their own mind) where they stand based on belief~but what media says or what others say is the right direction. To some folks, being in the middle is not…..extreme enough.

A breakdown of a recent conversation with Jesus.

“Whom do you love?” , I ask.

“Everyone”, he replies. “Don’t get me wrong, there are things I hate.” I used to gulp with guilt when he said this. Not anymore.

“Do you want me to the right or to the left Jesus”?, I ask confusingly.

Softly, he replies with a smile, “I don’t care which side you’re on, as long as you’re on my side.” 🤍

I stand in the middle of life loving what’s to the right & what’s to the left~as long as it aligns with the love of Christ. I feel comfort in the middle. It’s here that I’ve grown the most. In every pic below, I’m in the middle. The middle of my sons, the trail, cute baby goats I once owned, the country, the roads, the river, the air, and friends. Don’t worry if you’re in the middle of something. It’s ok. And know this~embracing the uncertainty of being in the “middle” might lead you to the best life yet.

Have faith 💚